Monday August 21, 2006

Monday August 21.

After another rough night of sleep, I was awake and ready to go. The house seemed to have adopted a stray cat. This little orange colored pain in my butt was named Olive by the ladies. MerlotMan and I had given strict orders not to feed the cat. We’d learn later in the week that, as usual, we’d been ignored. Anyway, some time over night, the cat came bounding up on to the deck over by the washing machine. This, of course, was right outside our room. While coming on to the deck, the cat knocked over half the house, or so it seemed. I shot out of bed, in a panic, because it sounded like someone was outside the door. I peeked out the French Doors and saw the stupid cat looking at me. Pain in the butt cat.

I had some chores for Monday morning to accomplish. After our driving around the day before, I’d noticed that, in addition to having 4 bald tired on the Jeep, one had a nail lodged in it. It wasn’t leaking, but I wholly expected to find myself clinging to a cliff later in the week, changing a tire. I wanted to go to town and get it repaired. I also needed to go pay my respects to the National Park Service office and gather some loot.

I mentioned last time that most of St John is part of a National Park. In the 1950′s Laurence Rockefeller fell in love with St John. He saw that the island was mostly undeveloped and didn’t want it to turn into St Thomas and become over developed. Being richer than God, he bought roughly half the island, including almost all of the North Shore beaches and vast portions of the interior from Cruz Bay on the west side to Coral Bay in the east. He then handed the whole thing to the government and told them to make it into a National Park. They did, and we’re all happy about it. He also built himself a nice little resort at Caneel Bay. If you have $700, you can stay for a night. It’s a lovely place, but way out of our league. The National Park Service operates a large visitor’s center in Cruz Bay and I like to swing in, grab some maps and chat up the Park Rangers to see what’s going on.

Since only I see trekking through the commercial section of town and gathering maps to be fun, I headed out. I went to St John Rent a Car and explained my quandary. They said they could fix the nail pop, but I needed to take the car to the garage side. I need to attempt to describe their building. It’s a small, 2-story building. The lower floor has an office with a counter where you go your paperwork. The other half of the downstairs is their garage/workshop. They’re constantly repairing rented vehicles because it’s very easy to get into an accident on the island. There’s a little parking lane out front, driveways on either side of the building, and a lot in the back. Sounds simple, right? So, why was it hard for me to drive around to the garage? Well, remember those driveways I mentioned? They’re at almost 45 degree angles. The little parking lane? It sits about 8 feet above the road and requires you to drive up the near vertical driveway and somehow shoe-horn your car in to the turn. The parking lot? Higher than the 2nd story of the building. They built a rental car company on the edge of a cliff. To get to the repair side, I needed to be on the right side of the building. But, to get to it, I would either need to drive up to the back and around or go across the island. Why? 1-way street. So, I backed down the street to the right entrance. And proceeded to attempt to back up this 45 degree hill. All the while, Bobby (the repair guy), is giving me the look. The look of “White man does NOT know how to drive”?. After about 37 attempts, I had the car up the hill and had the tire lined up exactly as he wanted. Yes folks, Bobby was about to plug the tire on the side of a cliff. I fell out of the Jeep and rolled down the hill towards town.

Having nearly killed myself several times, I decided that I needed a treat. So I went to the town’s smoothie stand and treated myself. Mmmmm Smoothie. I wandered over to St John Spice to see Ruth. I also needed to buy MerlotMan’s birthday gift. We’d decided to get him a gift certificate to the store. He loves several of their products and cooks with them all the time. I met the owner, Ruth, who I’d traded emails with and she took the infamous webcam pictures of me in my YWML shirt. I called a friend and had her forward the pictures appropriately. From there, I wandered to the Park Offices. To get there, you need to walk past the old Commercial Docks. They moved the commercial dock to the edge of town since the last visit, freeing up the town area of all a lot of the truck traffic. It’s always a lovely walk; dodging Rastas and chickens. I got to the NPS offices and grabbed a book, an awesome waterproof map of the island and talked to one of the rangers. She went on and on about the construction both in town and on the hill across from our house. There are definite concerns on the island about where all the people are going to fit once all the work is done. Having satisfied my geek craving, and having allowed time for the car to be fixed, I headed to the house.

I got there in time to be instructed to light the grill and make hot dogs for the crew. After lunch, it was hot and I think I was cranky. I may have taken a nap. Or just had a few drinks. When I came to, I grabbed the women to go back to town. They wanted to do a shopping preview trip and I was bored again. My restlessness was appearing. We went over to Mongoose Junction. It’s a large shopping mall/galleria. They have a lot of clothes and jewelry stores. I scored a sweet Hawaiian-type shirt that was way on sale. JewelrySlut saw some cool gecko earrings at R&I Patton, but was torn between the gold and silver ones. We agreed to go back later in the week. We then headed back to town, parked the Jeep and explored some more. We saw some other cool items that we wanted to buy. Since it was hot, we needed beer. We wandered to The Beach Bar and ordered up a few. I managed to see the end of the Yankee game, and delighted in their 5 in a row sweep up in Boston. Returning to the Jeep, we noticed that a truck had parked next to us, but at a funny angle. Backing out was going to be a challenge. We all got in and I started attempting to get out of the spot. SCREEEEEEEEEEEEEECH. Well. That didn’t go well now, did it? We went back to the house to assess the damage. ChurchBomber got to ride shotgun and finally realized that I was just not a sadistic jerk who wanted to drive over every single bump in the road. The roads really are that bumpy. Reaching home, I noticed that we no longer had a passenger side front blinker. Oopsie. Should have paid that damage waiver.

We waited until nearly 3:30 before packing up and heading to the beach for the day. We’d decided to play it safe again and head to Cinnamon Bay. Cinnamon is probably St John’s 2nd signature beach after Trunk. It’s only one bay over from Trunk but is an adventure to get to. That one bay’s worth of driving includes 2 nasty switchbacks. You take one on the outside of the road (on the left) and the other on the inside. Imagine making a left turn, but finishing the turn about 12 feet above where it started. That’s what it’s like. The ladies, confined to the backseat at all times, do not like these turns at all.

Cinnamon has some services like a snack bar and changing rooms, but they all close at 4. It was nearly 4 when we arrived and the beach was mostly empty. There’s an island (or Cay as they’re called) out in the bay that offers good snorkeling. JewelrySlut and I geared up and swam out to the cay. The snorkeling was very good. There were a lot of fish and the coral heads were very colorful. ChurchBomber and MerlotMan puttered around closer to the shore. ChurchBomber was still feeling out her new gear and MerlotMan was getting more comfortable with his PFD. Js and I really had a good time. I have a lot more experience snorkeling, but she’s taken to it like a pro and we have fun together. Of course, part of my fun involves diving down underneath her and coming up on her out of the depths. This usually makes her scream and me laugh. Then we both nearly drown because our masks flood. Good times. After about an hour, we paddled back to the beach. We packed up, got to drive down the 2 fun-filled switchbacks (one caused the car to lose traction and skid) and went to…you guessed it, JJ’s. Beer flowed and conch fritters…well…were eaten.

We went back to the house, had another swim (to wash off the salt) and had dinner. I grilled up some chicken breasts and some vegetables. We washed it all down with a little less drink than the night before. We had a big day ahead of us. In fact, alarms had been set. We had (GASP) a schedule to keep in the morning.

It was a good day. The 3 of them got to sit by the house for most of the morning. I got to explore town again. We got to our 2nd beach and snorkeled again. One thing I wanted to make sure we did was snorkel more on this trip. But, I’d already seen Trunk and Cinnamon. I was anxious to see some new beaches.

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